The Jets are looking for a quarterback…again. This is the first in a three-part series exploring their options this offseason. The first part is an overview of trading for Packers star Aaron Rodgers.
Jets fans are suddenly looking for clues on “The Pat McAfee Show,” searching for ayahuasca, and watching a lot of “Jeopardy!” hoping for signs that Aaron Rodgers will be their next quarterback.
These fans may need to RELAX.
It could be a while before Rodgers’ future becomes clear and if it involves a trade with Gang Green. Rodgers and the Jets made sense in many ways, but big questions remain: Would Rodgers want to play for the Jets, and would team owner Woody Johnson be willing to pick up the $59.465 million tab? dollars for Rodgers to play in 2023?
Johnson said after the season he’d be “absolutely” willing to spend on a veteran quarterback this offseason if that’s what general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh tell him they want to do. . Johnson, however, may not have had a nearly $60 million price tag in mind.
As the Jets ponder their quarterback options this offseason, the question of Rodgers looms large. The possibility of adding a future Hall of Famer may be too good to pass up.
At the moment, these are only speculations. The Packers have not indicated they are willing to trade Rodgers. And Rodgers hasn’t said if he intends to play in 2023, and if he plays, if he wants to be traded. He has provided very few clues as to what he intends to do. This is the third straight season of trying to read the tea leaves with Rodgers.
“Any other ideas about [a] trade and so on, it’s just guesswork until I decide what I want to do to move forward for myself,” Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show” this week.
The speculation received a boost last weekend when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that it was a “real possibility” that the Packers and Rodgers were considering a trade this offseason.
The Jets were connected to the Rodgers contest by logic. After their disaster last season with Zach Wilson, Saleh and Douglas need a “win now” quarterback in 2023. Rodgers fits the bill. Johnson has shown that he enjoys acquiring shiny toys. He notably traded for Brett Favre, Rodgers’ predecessor in Green Bay, in 2008.
Could Johnson strike another deal with the Packers for an aging superstar?
Aaron from Broadway
The first domino to fall will be whether Rodgers is ready to come to the Jets. Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but no team would trade for him without assurances that he wants to play for them. Some think he wouldn’t be comfortable in the New York spotlight. The Jets are certainly in a better position than they have been to attract a player of Rodgers’ pedigree. They have a top-five defense. They have young guns like Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall and Elijah Moore. And they should revamp the offensive line this offseason.
The Jets are in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator, and Nathaniel Hackett, who worked with Rodgers in Green Bay and has been praised by the quarterback, is one of the candidates. Hackett’s presence, however, guarantees nothing. Ask the Broncos. When they hired Hackett as head coach last season, some thought Rodgers would follow him to Denver.
Saleh and Rodgers have a certain familiarity due to Saleh’s close relationship with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Rodgers said he praised Saleh when the Jets hired him while FaceTiming with LaFleur. Saleh faced Rodgers as a coordinator and head coach and got to watch him practice in the summer of 2021, when the Jets and Packers trained together in Green Bay.
“Watching it in a training setting, I thought it was, for me, one of the coolest experiences,” Saleh said at the time. “You hear about the Hall of Famers and you hear about their training habits and I was just thinking about the way he communicated with his teammates, the way he spoke to his coaches, the respect and the consideration that his teammates not only have it for him but it’s reciprocated from him to his teammates, just a class act. And everything people think about him is exactly true, he’s A-1.
From the Jets’ perspective, the biggest hurdle is money. A potential trade for Rodgers wouldn’t be a salary cap issue. The three-year, $150 million contract extension he signed in March is structured to keep the cap hit low for the next two years.
There’s a good breakdown of Rodgers’ contract on overthecap.com. Basically, whatever team Rodgers plays for in 2023, he would have the option of dividing Rodgers’ compensation into a base salary of $1.165 million and a bonus of $58.3 million. The bonus can be pro-rated over four years to reduce the cap. His 2024 salary has a similar option. His cap fee would be a combined $48 million over the next two seasons.
So the Jets could make the cap work. The question is whether Johnson can make the money work. Although the bonus would be pro-rated for capping purposes, Rodgers would receive the $20.3 million within 10 days of the team exercising the option and the remaining $38 million by September 30. .
Although Johnson is a billionaire, the Jets operate on a budget and part of the appeal of drafting Zach Wilson in 2021 was having a quarterback playing on a rookie contract and being able to allocate money elsewhere. Surely the Jets didn’t have $60 million in the budget for a quarterback when planning for the 2023 season.
The Packers may be hesitant to trade Rodgers because they will incur a $40 million charge if they do. If they leave Rodgers, it will be because they’ve decided they’ve had enough and want to cast Jordan Love. It won’t make much financial sense to them.
The other problems
Beyond financial compensation, the Jets would also have to give up a capital project to acquire Rodgers. How much depends on who you ask. There was speculation in the media that the Packers wanted two first-round picks for Rodgers. People in the league think that’s not realistic. At 39, Rodgers is older than other quarterbacks who have been traded in recent years. The acquiring team would absorb their contract, and if they got to the trade talks stage, they would take a potential headache off of Green Bay’s hands.
Any trade package would likely be based on Rodgers’ performance this coming season. A team could send a mid-round and late-round pick in the 2023 draft to Green Bay and also hand out a pick or picks in 2024 that are contingent on things like how many games Rodgers plays, if he wins the MVP and if the team make the playoffs, the Super Bowl and wins the Super Bowl. A fourth-round pick could become a first-rounder based on Rodgers reaching certain marks in 2023.
A big question for the Jets is whether they believe Rodgers is in decline. He had one of his worst seasons in 2022 after winning MVP awards in 2020 and 2021. Rodgers threw a decade-high 12 interceptions and didn’t have a single 300-yard passing game the last season. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs.
Then there is the question of how many years Rodgers wants to play. Is it worth doing all that for a season? He might be a short-term fix, but the team that acquires him is said to be looking for another quarterback in 2024. Rodgers has been flirting with stepping away for several years now.
Rodgers could drag this out and the Jets might not be able to wait. Other quarterbacks, such as Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, will find homes by mid-March. The Jets cannot be left without a partner at the end of the game of QB musical chairs.
“I have to figure out what I want to do,” Rodgers told McAfee, “and then we’ll see where all the parts are and what happens after that.”
Things could get interesting.
Coming tomorrow: Could Jimmy G or Derek Carr be the answer?